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The Fight Over Paying Teachers Not to Teach in New Jersey

January 8, 2021

Teachers in New Jersey are paid NOT to teach under a practice known as “release time,” which benefits private teachers unions at the expense of taxpayers. The Goldwater Institute is challenging the unconstitutional practice in a lawsuit that is pending before the New Jersey Supreme Court. This week, the case made national headlines in the Wall Street Journal and on Fox Business.

Under release time, taxpayers in states, cities, and school districts across the country are paying public employees to work exclusively for their private unions, instead of doing the jobs they were hired to do. The Goldwater Institute has brought challenges to release time under state constitution “gift clauses” or “anti-aid clauses” in ArizonaTexas, and New Jersey. New Jersey taxpayers—represented by the Goldwater Institute—filed a case challenging a collective bargaining agreement in Jersey City which required a school district to pay the salaries of two full-time teachers who did not spend their time educating children, but instead performed full-time union work. The case came before the state Supreme Court in October 2020, and we are currently awaiting the court’s ruling.

You can watch the story on Fox Business here and read an excerpt of a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Goldwater Director of National Litigation Jon Riches and attorney Justin Meyers, co-counsel in the Goldwater Institute’s New Jersey case, below.

Wall Street Journal: The N.J. Teachers Who Get Paid Not to Teach

By Jon Riches and Justin Meyers

Should New Jersey’s taxpayers—strained under one of the heaviest tax burdens in the country—be paying public school teachers not to teach? The New Jersey Supreme Court will soon decide whether taxpayers should be required to pay for public employees to work solely for their unions, rather than the jobs they were hired to do.

Most assume that tax dollars go toward public goods—maintaining roads, ensuring safety and funding schools. But you don’t have to look hard to find taxpayer dollars going to private interests. Take “release time,” in which government workers are paid not to perform the jobs they were hired to do, and instead to work full-time for private labor unions—all while still receiving their full taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits.

Unfortunately, those entrusted with the care and education of children are often the worst abusers of release time. The New Jersey case involves release-time provisions in a collective-bargaining agreement between the Jersey City Board of Education and its teachers union. In that contract, the school board has agreed to pay the salaries of two full-time teachers to work exclusively for the union. While on release time, these teachers engage in political activities, negotiate higher wages and benefits, solicit new union members, attend union conferences and meetings, and file costly grievances against the district.

Fortunately, both state law and the New Jersey Constitution prohibit this arrangement. Under state law, the Legislature must expressly authorize a public expenditure like release time before a school board can include it in a contract. The Legislature never did that in this case, and the school board was not authorized to sign off on its own.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal here.

You can read more about the Goldwater Institute’s work on union release time here.



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